Make Consent Your Aim

Make consent your aim

Post #MeToo we chatted some more about consent. Rather than aiming to get someone to do something, what if you could make consent your aim?

We recorded this about two weeks ago and a bit after the #MeToo stuff happened. So we still wanted to talk about consent.

We began by chatting about Hannah Witton who made this really lovely video where she bigged up our work.

In particular she liked our podcast about ‘No’ and how, if you are aiming for consent all the time then you might never put someone in a situation of having to say no (which is good because this is a very hard word to say and often people don’t say it).

Then we moved on to talking about what our aim is with any kind of encounter with the person. So for example, if someone’s aim of chatting to someone was to get them into bed rather than just enjoying spending time with them, then the aim of the encounter is not consent. But what if our aim with anything was for consent, or just being present with someone? If the aim is for consent then by definition we would be trying to do a thing that would make all parties happier.

This trying to get someone to do something, rather than aiming to be consensual and present also just treats the other person as an object. If you were to try to work or manipulate another person into giving you something that they want objectifies them but it also less fun because because you’re never actually with them. So you lose out too because in the pursuit of what happens next you’re never in the now and never actually enjoying their company.

This might be making a workplace connection, chatting to someone, sending a message on a dating app, making sex happen in a relationship. Trying to get to a goal in this way means that you are left with a binary of getting that goal or not getting that goal, which is a win/lose, success/failure mindset. If you make the aim consent, then by definition this is mutual and so everyone is happy.

We talked about handshakes again (more in this video below)

Some people’s motivations for having a handshake are because they think it’s the polite and right thing to do. Or sometimes they are taught that a handshake is about leaving someone with an impression of you (*coughs* Donald Trump *coughs*).

If the aim of a handshake was consent then it’s about having a micro-moment with someone. Trying to make a brief but meaningful connection — to see if you can get on with each other in a work or social context. When consent is the aim, then it’s a nice mutual thing for both/all of you.

bell hooks says that when people are trying to get something out of each other you can’t have love. Maybe we can save the world through handshakes?

Would you like us to come and deliver a consent workshop at your workplace? Get in touch via the contact page.

The cultural scripts we receive are about how we can get something that we want from a person. The gendered script, as we saw with #MeToo is a real problem. Men are given the script that they have to be active, taking the lead and taking up space. Women are given the exact opposite script.

This cultural script is so pervasive everywhere, even in seemingly benevolent media. There is so much normalised misogyny even in things like sitcoms, even like Big Bang Theory and Friends. Creepy behaviour really normalised. Wearing women down. Pick-up artistry. Men thinking they are entitled to women and sex. It’s hard to step outside all of this stuff because even when you engage with most popular culture you step right back into it.

Justin made a video for Bish about this Being a Man thing.

Doing work around consent involves letting go of the cultural scripts and if we let go of the cultural scripts then we can all have a better time. This is really hard to do because we’ve often grown up with the cultural scripts and then reproduce them for ourselves and with other people. However we can somehow step away from the script of how to do things we can actually have a more enjoyable/consensual time with others and ourselves. Rather than, for example, having to do the ‘Being a Man’ thing.

The gendered scripts that we have around men and women give men more power than women. This resulted in #MeToo being such a huge thing, with so many women reporting so many harassment, assaults or other attacks at the hands of men. In addition to this if we look to where people do and don’t have power we can also go beyond the ‘he/she’ aspects of consent and look at how this plays out intersectionally: with other genders, disability, race, class, age, health, neurodiversity etc. We covered this in our last podcast.

We also chatted about these David Schwimmer videos about sexual harassment.

These explain nicely about how power works but also the importance of if you do have power then how you can be more consensual. Again Justin also has a blog post about this at Bish

We have another rant about sex education and sex advice. In mainstream sex ed the aim is to get kids to not have sex. Mainstream sex advice is to get people to have sex. Neither of this approaches are helpful when it comes to consent. Sex educators and sex advisors need to take a long hard look at themselves to see how they may have compounded this.

Not many people have bought our book (more about this next week), yet consent is just not mentioned in the vast vast majority of sex advice books/magazine columns. Then #MeToo comes out and then the majority of women say that this has happened to them. If we don’t learn from this then in another 20 years we will have the exact same thing happening again.

So please buy our book (and help us sell it) — a sex advice book that centres consent and diversity (and that this is helpful for everyone).

Also check out DO… RSE for Schools which is a huge project that Justin and MJ worked on. It’s a free, inclusive Relationships and Sex Education resource for schools that, like our book, centres consent and diversity. It’s been revamped and is now much more easy to navigate.

© Meg-John Barker & Justin Hancock, 2017